Tuesday, September 27

They find in Pompeii a liquid that could be the oldest wine in the world


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The news of the discovery of the sensational tomb of Marcus Venerius Secundio went around the world. For the first time it was discovered Pompeii in a burial chamber a partially mummified skeleton, something very rare in this ancient Roman city destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 AD because the bodies of adults used to be cremated at that time. An inscription was also discovered on a marble slab confirming that the theaters of Pompeii also recited in Greek, at least in the last decades before the eruption. But the surprises have not stopped there. The investigations directed by the Valencian archaeologist and anthropologist Llorenç Alapont in the Porta Sarno necropolis, in Pompeii, have found an urn with more than six liters of a dark reddish liquid could be the oldest wine so far knownas explained by Alapont himself, in a
recent conference organized by the Alavés Institute of Archeology
(IAA) and
collects Sergio Carracedo in El Correo
.

The container with the reddish liquid was found in another tomb in the family vault that housed the ashes of Novia Amabilis, the wife of Marcus Venerius Secundio, along with those of three children aged 6, 8 and 10. Probably his children. There, underground and covered by two double-sided tiles, the archaeologists found a metal box and inside, an exceptional glass urn that, according to this archaeologist, denotes high luxury.

“What is most interesting” for Alapont is that the urn “appeared completely filled with more than 6 liters of a dark, reddish-colored liquid, which is already being analyzed in the laboratories of the University of Valencia and which we hope that it will be confirmed soon that it is wine«.

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“If it is confirmed, it would be the first time that it is confirmed that wine is preserved in this state and it would be the oldest found in history, a wine over 2,000 years old», assures the specialist.

The urn with the liquid placed in the metal box
The urn with the liquid placed in the metal box – Llorenc Alapont

To date it is believed (although not confirmed) that the oldest wine in the world is found in a glass bottle located in the tomb of a Roman nobleman dated around 325 AD near the German city of Speyer.

At the moment the first laboratory tests carried out in Valencia, under the direction of
Giani Gallello
reveal that the reddish liquid from Pompeii contains tannins, like wine. The experts are now comparing the sample with current wines to see how much it resembles and how much it differs from a current wine. “Sediments had been found that could be wine, but never the wine itself in a liquid state. We are facing something new that must be confirmed 100%”, said Llorenc Alapont.

“Nobody will dare to try it,” he commented during the talk at the IAA in a relaxed tone, because almost 2,000 years later the liquid “smells very bad and does not look good.”

The presence of wine in Roman funeral rituals is “well known,” according to Alapont. The archaeologist thinks that “after depositing the bones, the urn was filled with this liquid, as a libation, a part of the burial ceremony.”

Nero and the freedman

Marcus Venerius Secundio had been a freedman who took the surname of the city of Pompeii, which was called the Veneria colony, and guardian of the temple of the goddess Venus, the most important deity of the city. In an inscription these data are recorded, as well as that he enjoyed a certain social and economic status since he was an Augustale, a member of the college of priests dedicated to the imperial cult, and that “he sponsored four days of Greek and Latin shows.”

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Inscription from the tomb of Marcus Venerius Secundio
Inscription from the tomb of Marcus Venerius Secundio – Pompeii Archaeological Park

Archaeologists know more about this character because his name appears on some wax tablets found in the house of the banker Cecilio Iucundo, one of the richest people in Pompeii. He is recorded as a witness to some transactions with two similar names, which makes experts think that he was a slave with enough reputation to appear as a witness and that he changed his name once freed. As custodian of the temple of Venus, he helped make the offerings and would surely receive large tips that would contribute to his freedom.

By another inscription, they even contemplate the possibility that perhaps it was Nero himself who granted him freedom. In it you can read that Nero visited the temple of Venus in Pompeii after the earthquake of 62 and donated many gold coins. «Nero had a predilection for Pompeii and probably knew Marco Venerio. We have to consider the hypothesis that Nero was the one who granted him freedom,” Alapont said at the conference.

Perhaps Marco Venerius wanted imitate Nero with the sponsorship of the games (in the tomb they have found a coin from 65 AD celebrating the Neronian games, the Neronia) and even its unusual embalming could have been inspired by the Roman emperor. “Nero decided to bury and embalm the body of his wife Poppea in the manner of the Greek and Egyptian kings (…) Marcus Venerius tried to do the same,” Alapont pointed out before highlighting that the practice of burial and embalming is very scarce. in the Roman Empire. “Few people could afford it and it was a sign of distinction.”

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This is how Marco Venerius managed to partially preserve his body, which was found partially mummified, with his head covered with gray hair. He still has an ear, cartilage and part of the intestines that are being analyzed and that will provide more information about life in Pompeii.

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